Health Desk- 24 Oct 2019: Facing off against a plaintiff’s lawyer for the first time about Johnson & Johnson’s Baby Powder, the company’s Chief Executive Alex Gorsky earlier this month insisted that the company’s iconic brand was safe.
“We unequivocally believe that our talc and our baby powder does not contain asbestos,” Gorsky testified in an Oct. 3 deposition in a case involving a retired Indiana college professor who alleges his cancer was caused by the Baby Powder he used for decades. The deposition has not been previously reported.
Gorsky, citing “thousands of tests and studies” to support his testimony, said: “I’m not aware of our baby powder or talc containing asbestos.”
That’s harder for him to say now. Last Wednesday, just 13 days after his deposition, the US Food and Drug Administration told the healthcare giant it had discovered asbestos, a known carcinogen, in a bottle of Johnson’s Baby Powder.
On Friday, a day after getting the full FDA test results, J&J recalled 33,000 bottles of Baby Powder in the United States. It marked the first time the company has recalled Baby Powder for possible asbestos contamination and the first time US regulators have announced finding asbestos in the product.
The FDA finding will make it much more difficult for Gorsky and the company to continue saying that they “believe” the talc powders are free from asbestos, said Elizabeth Burch, a product liability expert at the University of Georgia School of Law. She said the test result and recall lend credibility to what plaintiffs have been arguing in court for months.
J&J stands behind the safety of its talc and said it’s investigating the FDA test result. The company said it proceeded with the recall “out of an abundance of caution.”